John Jacobs' review below is spot on. I knew little about the civil war before reading this, and not much more afterwards. The narrative is incoherent - it jumps back and forward in time and assumes a hell of a lot of background knowledge. People appear, disappear, and reappear, so it is easy to lose track of who they are, what side they are on, and why their story is included. It proved impossible to work out how people fitted into the story of the civil war, or to get any sensible overview of what happened when. I learned a few disconnected facts, but having ploughed doggedly on to the end of the book, am still largely in the dark about minor details, like what actually happened, in what sequence, and when.